CQC Highlights Failings in Care of the Elderly

Care industry regulators have warned that the most vulnerable patients are the ones who are receiving the poorest standards of care. The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual report reveals “appalling” lapses in the quality of care in some residential nursing homes looking after patients who are suffering from medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

The extent of the problem

20% of nursing homes were found to have problems with staffing levels, out of almost 1,000 care providers who were inspected.

During inspections, CQC staff found patients in nursing homes left lying in urine-soaked beds, many not getting the help they required with meals and others being ignore when they called to staff for help.

This is the first CQC report to be issued since the introduction of school-style ratings for hospitals, which are ranked between inadequate and outstanding. This system is now being used in care homes too but this report is based on the previous system of inspecting care facilities on five main criteria: suitability of staff, care and welfare, respect and dignity, safety and safeguarding, and monitoring of quality.

Problems with staffing levels

CQC inspectors found that 20% of care homes just didn’t have enough staff to meet standards of care, and that many more failed to meet the grade on safety and safeguarding. CQC monitors 17,000 care homes and 8,000 services providing care to people in their own homes. Last years they inspected 1,000 care providers.

Inspectors also raised the issue of people being cared for at home who receive visits which are too short to enable the carer to look after them adequately. It was shown last year that almost 3 out of 4 local Councils are still allocating visits of just 15 minutes to elderly residents.

Many local authorities buy care packages from private providers in blocks of 15 minutes, and this means that carers struggle to complete all the required tasks in the sort period of time allocated. Carers are typically expected to help patients with personal care, washing, dressing, heating up meals and with medication. Charities such as Age UK have repeatedly warned that 15 minutes is just not long enough for a carer to do all these tasks. Under a Freedom of Information request, it was found that despite previous concerns, 73% of Councils still buy care in 15 minute visit blocks.

The Chief Executive of the CQC, David Behan, said that many care homes were still not coming up to scratch. CQC inspected 38 acute NHS Trusts rating 9 as good, 24 as requiring improvement and 5 as inadequate. The CQC’s main concern was safety as 80% of Trusts were rated as requiring improvement or inadequate in this respect.

Dementia patients particularly at risk

The CQC also warned that people suffering from dementia in England should expect to be exposed to poor standards of care as routine in care homes and hospitals. The scathing report found that despite all efforts to improve care standards, people were still being denied dignity and compassion during their treatment. Although many establishments have very high standards, each person suffering from dementia is likely to come across care which is rushed, impersonal or uncaring at some point. These conclusions were made at the end of a focused programme of inspecting dementia care.

The inspectors looked at 20 hospitals and 129 care homes across England in four specific areas of care: how patient needs were being assessed, how care packages were being delivered and planned, team working between different care providers when patients move home from hospital, and how the establishments were monitoring quality.

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